I’m on a rock-raving pluck this week. It happens whenever I spend time in the mountains – I think I get filled with some sort of geomorphological energy that inspires me to evangelise in unpronounceable words about topographic and bathymetric features of which I have little understanding but much visual appreciation. I’ve just spent some days in the Cederberg, you see – that rugged Cape wilderness playground quite like no other. And, as always, I’ve returned home rather rok-bevok.
So, forgive me while I praise rocks for a few paragraphs before getting to the point of this blog…
In Praise of Rocks. We all know they’re pretty damn old, right, but some show their age more than others. Much like people, I guess. Some have smooth complexions, some are pock-marked, others are weathered and wrinkled. Like us, they’re all unique characters – there’re those that are uncomplicated, those that are soft, others that are brittle and sharp, some that are rough around the edges, those that are tough hard bastards that can take all measure of punishment, while others that crumble under pressure.
Like people, rocks come in different colours – there’re black, white, brown, yellow, red ones. In fact, rocks far out do us in the racial spectrum – they can even be multi-coloured and patterned.
Just like us, rocks are not loners, they’re found in groups. And once they’re settled, they tend to remain in the same spot for years, millennia actually, with only the occasional individual outlier disrupting the peace by deciding to move elsewhere, or being forced out by circumstances beyond his/her control, in which case the immediate family is usually taken along too. With rocks, this situation is usually a downhill trajectory that carries many social consequences.
Rocks, particularly their larger brothers, Boulders, are great fun to play amongst. They don’t mind at all, in fact, they invite play and exploration – they’re happy to be climbed upon, scaled, run across, even slept on. And they particularly love being admired. They’re never shy, and they loom before us in age-old glory, steadfastly on display in their timeless strength.
Last week I got to play on a favourite mountain range, the remote Cederberg wilderness. Sent there by the much-loved (and equally cursed during races) race organiser Trevor Ball, notorious for his uncanny ability to intentionally plot race routes through gnarly unchartered terrain, to recce a route he’d sketched for an upcoming soon-to-announced event. His instructions were simple: “Here’s the GPX of the route… sort of… roughly. Explore, have fun, give me feedback.” So I roped in two fellow enthusiastic trail seekers, Jana and Prem, and we hit the route.
In true Ball style, the trail was 85% visible… in some places less convincingly than in others… but wow! what a route!
The route circumnavigates the Kromrivier Cederberg Park valley in the central Cederberg Wilderness Area. The valley and surrounding peaks are on privately owned land, and the farmer has only recently opened the area to hiking (permits necessary, of course). Our route took in the six prominent peaks shouldering the valley:
→ Sugarloaf / Suikerberg (1445m) and The Pup (1723m) on the north side
→ Donkerkloofkop (1746m) at the top end of the valley
→ Luna Peak (1675m), Murrayberg (1649m) and Winterbach Peak (1536m) on the south side.
The route is as near as damn it to 50km (probably in the late 40s but do allow for some scampering in the rocks sections – not to be missed!)
♥ The view from The Pup (approx. 15km in): the ascent is long and tough but once you’re on the summit, it feels like the whole of the Cederberg is below (well, apart from Sneeuberg, the highest peak in the Cederberg, which looms to your left). The Maltese Cross is clearly in view far below and looks stranger than ever from above.
♥ The area between Apollo Peak (near Luna) and Winterbach Peak (approx. 27km to 38km in): these +/-11km make the ultimate rock playground for anyone with an adventurous spirit – it’s a cacophony of geological chaos, a raucous of rocks, a burst of boulders! The trail is clearly marked by cairns, and meanders through gigantic and bizarre formations that have been sculpted over eons by wind, rain, heat and snow. Here the imagination runs wild conjuring up crazy images from the rock shapes, from Mesozoic mammals of the Jurassic age standing guard, to dancing field mice and finely carved filigree. Mother Nature definitely has a remarkable sense of humour.
And it’s now official, the news is out: the Kromrivier BEAST is go! Click HERE to read the details!
I can confidently report that this route ROCKS! It’s South African trail running’s next best thing to… well, its big brother, the Cederberg Traverse. And, as with that special race, this one’s not for the faint-hearted or the semi-prepared – it’s tough, it’s on rugged terrain, and as anyone who has hiked or run in the Cederberg will know, that wilderness has no mercy: when it’s hot, it’s scorching; when it’s dry, it’s parched. This one’s for the fit trail runner who loves adventure and isn’t afraid to hurt a bit… in a good way!
The race is soon, 15th May, and entries are limited so don’t hesitate – click HERE to secure your spot!